Never before has the need for everyone to do their bit to help the planet survive been so intense. We are experiencing a catastrophic climate change emergency, and the time to react is now. A change in perspective is of paramount importance. The "think globally, act locally" cliche has even assumed a different meaning. I purposely call it a cliche because it has been used so often with so little effect that the phrase deserves no more merit. A tiny change of behavior, a few recycled bottles, composting, or fewer cheap T-shirts purchased are no longer enough. Perhaps it has never been enough. We have come to the point when we all must step up our games and apply sustainable principles to the greatest extent in everything we do. Travel is no exception. It is everyone's duty to prepare for green travel trends and embrace them.
How much of a culprit is travel anyway?
Well, not much. Low-cost airline companies have made it possible for an increasing number of people to treat themselves to exotic destinations such as Fiji or Machu Picchu. So, they add to the CO2 emission levels. However, air travel is responsible for only 2% of the CO2 emissions produced by the humankind. And even so, ATAG (Air Transport Action Group) has a plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. With hydrogen-power aircrafts coming into the scene, air travel will be even smaller pollutant.
Only around 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the tourism industry in general. But regardless of how meager the number seems compared to the global scale, it is our responsibility to try and travel even more sustainably. As I have mentioned, we must change the entire perspective, raise awareness, and contribute to the systemic change by doing our tiny, tiny part. Only that way can we finally give meaning to another cliche - be the change you want to see in the world.
Travel is a positive thing. It helps us grow as people while we learn about different cultures, traditions, and people. The economic benefits are also important to consider. So, let's see how travel can lead the change just like it helps broaden our horizons.
What is sustainable tourism?
Understanding what sustainable travel is will help travelers implement the principles and trends that make it possible. As the World Tourism Organization defines it, sustainable tourism is any travel that fully considers its current and future economic, social, and environmental impact. At the same time, it should address the needs of the industry, environment, host communities, and visitors.
Sustainable tourism preserves local culture, nature, and economy instead of enabling large corporations to amass wealth.
In simpler words, it means that local cultures, the environment, and natural resources should take precedence over ensuring more wealth for big corporations. Therefore, as travelers, we should discover ways to sustainably explore the world, reducing our environmental footprint as much as possible and eliminating the negative impact on local economies, culture, and nature. And these ways are not only concerning the means of transport and choosing eco-friendly accommodation, but other aspects of travel, too. For example, if you need to use storage while traveling, make sure you explore some green solutions. Some storage providers strive to be environmentally conscious. So, not only will you ensure the safety of your valuable possessions, but you will also do so while not harming the environment further.
Sustainable travel trends
It is encouraging that more and more people who love exploring the world are looking into green alternatives to travel. It also seems promising that new sustainable travel trends have been emerging.
The slow travel
If you are not traveling far, take the train instead of your car.
The slow travel implies that we should focus on the journey more instead of the destination. It means visiting sights and landmarks along the way, enjoying the spectacular views. It also means renting a bike and exploring the place you are in, really absorbing the local community and beautiful landscapes. As you do so, you will get a chance to support local businesses and reduce your carbon footprint. Ultimately, experiencing new places in such a way will unquestionably feel more rewarding and fulfilling.
Also, if you are not traveling far, you can consider traveling by train instead of by car. There is something romantic about it.
Air travel is becoming more sustainable
More and more people are switching to electric cars (although we should note that electricity production is not entirely damage-free). But did you know that electric aviation is also gaining popularity? Airlines have become aware of the growing travelers' preference to travel in an eco-friendlier manner. So, they have slowly begun switching to aircraft that run on biofuels or electricity. This is still not widely available and has been under innovation, but it is something to look forward to and a travel trend to prepare for.
Or eco-mmodation, if you will. In 2019, Booking published a Sustainable Travel Report that suggests that people were more likely to book environmentally friendly accommodation even if they weren't planning to travel sustainably. That way, global travels reduce their negative impact while getting a more authentic experience of the local culture. Simultaneously, they support locally-run businesses.
Picking the less-traveled-to destination
Go to cities and places that fewer travelers visit. When you think about France or the Netherlands, Paris or Amsterdam, respectively, first come to mind. What is the second city you think of? Well, go there instead. It may not be so popular, but it can reduce the harmful effect of over-tourism. Moreover, it will enrich your travel experience.
And/or traveling off-season
If it is Paris or Amsterdam you want, then Paris or Amsterdam it is. But consider traveling off-season. Visit those places at times when there is less tourist activity. It will help lessen the negative impact of over-tourism, releasing the pressure off the local infrastructure and protecting the environment. Also, booking accommodation, plane tickets, and museum tickets will not only be easier but also cheaper. And you will get to see the city without the usual hustle and bustle that may prevent you from experiencing it to the fullest.
Opt for sustainable travel destinations
Opting for less popular cities, more sustainable destinations, and traveling off-season will help offset the effects of over-tourism.
Responsible travel also implies picking more sustainable travel destinations. Countries like New Zealand, Slovenia, or Iceland are pioneers in eco-tourism. Also, research sustainable cities you can visit. So, if you wish to experience breathtaking nature, places like these are a perfect option.
These have been only some of the sustainable travel trends to prepare for in the upcoming decade or so. The good news is that things are changing for the better. The only concern is whether the change will outpace rapid climate change. Therefore, we must all function in unity and be a part of the systemic change that will help save our planet.